Being its first appearance in Toronto, Louder Than A Bomb showed up louder than ever. Organized by Leave Out Violence (LOVE) Ontario, performers really shook the room such as a bomb might.

Louder Than A Bomb (LTAB) all began in 2001 in the diverse and cultural city of Chicago where it brought out many kinds of young poets. In Toronto, it wasn’t much different. Coming to Toronto meant bringing youth together to share their stories and build bridges across a variety of communities. It did just that.

The build up to this big premiere festival event held in the Royal Cinema in downtown Toronto, was immense. A total of 16 schools and community groups all competed for a spot in the finals. It dwindled down to just four teams that took the stage on June 3.

The high-schoolers were able to work closely with teaching artists to master and perfect their final piece for presentation. Some of these renowned spoken word artists and slam poets included Tanya Neumeyer, Andrea Thompson, Ian Keteku, Reesee Zigga Zagga and Matthew “Testament” Jones. They each helped out in a participating GTA school. The event was MC’d by two poets as well, suitably so.

And, those weren’t the only special guests in house. King of the Dot’s Organik & Bishop, poet and author Sheniz Janmohomad, Hertiage Canada’s David Barnard, Shameless Magazine’s Deb Singh and Farley Flex were all in attendance tossing up score boards after each performance.

Also, to keep the audience entertained during judging breaks and intermission was music by DJ Bidhan Berma, beatboxing by KRNFX and a dance performance by Caroline “Lady C” Fraser + Kosi “KC” Eze.

Students were encouraged to write honestly about their experiences in any form from rap, monologue, performance or story-telling. In doing so, each poet not only told about their experiences but provided the audience with one. Capturing every ear and eye there, poems riveted through each theatre seat, making some snap, clap, ooh and aw and stand up in a roaring and encouraging cheer. More tense moments made audience members cry, while others made them sit still.

Covering a range of topics including cancer, culture, racism, disabilities and mental illness, these well-crafted words made every person feel something, whether they could personally relate or not.

Each poem was scored from one to ten, with no one scoring less than seven. Each team consisted of four or five members. Therefore, at the end of each round (four rounds in total), the teams received a score out of 120. Consequently, they were ranked from one to four.

Placing forth was community group BAM! Youth Slam. In third was Cedarbrae Collegiate Institute. Second was Earl Haig Secondary School. Finally, in first place was community group Poetry Saved Our Lives – falling to their knees after hearing their title.

For being its first time in the big city, you wouldn’t have known. There wasn’t an empty seat in the room. From well-orchestrated technical transitions to the professionalism and overall feel and impact of the event, LTAB Toronto was surely a success.

LTAB Manager Lishai Peel said this is needed in Toronto and that she looks forward to bringing it back next year.

“It was almost like going to church. Everyone caught the Holy Spirit and everyone was in it together.”

Both the audience and the performers felt united, encouraged and supported at Toronto’s first LTAB festival.